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Judge Won’t Dismiss Traficant Case

March 21, 2002

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CLEVELAND (AP) _ A federal judge on Thursday refused to throw out corruption charges against Rep. James Traficant Jr., saying there is enough evidence that he accepted bribes and kickbacks to allow the case to proceed.

With no jury present, Traficant shouted himself hoarse in making his motion to have the charges dismissed.

Traficant, 60, is charged with accepting gifts and free labor from businessmen in exchange for his political help and taking cash kickbacks and free labor from staff members.

U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells ruled that ``the evidence clearly is sufficient″ to continue with the trial.

Traficant even objected to prosecutors’ resting their case, but Wells told him it was an improper objection. Traficant, who is not a lawyer, is defending himself. He was expected to begin his case later Thursday.

Ruling on a separate pretrial motion on the admissibility of evidence, Wells said, ``The prosecution has shown by a preponderance of evidence ... that there was a conspiracy″ and that Traficant was part of that conspiracy.

The congressman argued for more than 30 minutes that the government had no physical evidence to support allegations that he took money, only the testimony of untrustworthy witnesses.

The congressman then conceded, ``I never even looked at their evidence because I knew they had no evidence.″

Traficant also pointed out that many government witnesses testified under agreements that reduced or eliminated their own punishment.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bernard Smith replied that it is up to the jury to decide whether the evidence and testimony is credible.

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